University College London expert: Facebook is dead to teens

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg no doubt has big plans in store for 2014, after all, it’s all about Ad revenues to guarantee the Social Networks survival in the new year. Despite being plagued by privacy concerns, Facebook faces a stark New Year challenge – the mass migration of teenagers. This user segment arguably, is the very soul of Facebook, but there is a problem. Parents use Facebook as well and have started using it (a wise move) to keep tabs on teenagers, European Union-funded  researchers on global social networking trends have revealed.

According to the study, teens now consider the social networking site ‘dead and buried’ and are too embarrassed to post intimate details in case parents get wise to what they are up to. Did you ever think it was possible for Facebook to lose its edge? Perhaps this is what happens when you try to appeal to everyone in a clandestine multiple generational quest to make users the end product. Teenagers don’t care about that sort of thing though, what they care about is being embarrassed on line and being monitored by their parents. Their solution has been to adopt other networks that are relative parent free, thus we find alternative pic-sharing apps are growing in usage such as Snapchat along with Instagram. In fact exclusive teen use of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp could provide major headaches for Facebook going forward.

It is also safe to deduce that Facebook tried to prevent this threat by its failed $3bn bid for Snapchat earlier this year. At the time many wondered did Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel know something the rest of us did’nt?

University College London (UCL) material sciences professor Daniel Miller commented

“Young people are turning away in their droves and adopting other social networks instead, while the worst people of all, their parents, continue to use the service”

The study does point out that many teens will retain their Facebook accounts, in order to stay connected with family members who have left the nest.  Brandon Bailey writing in a Silicon beat article reported that Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, played down that reports of teens leaving Facebook were factual.

“So … is Facebook losing its appeal among teenage users, or not?  Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg seemed to answer, “No,” during a rare interview this week with the tech blog All Things D. But she didn’t offer any numbers to back up her statement”.

Change and diversity seems to be a common theme in the report. For example

“The way people use social media differs hugely from place to place. These are ‘social’ media, intensely woven into the texture of our relationships. They lead us straight to intimate worlds of Chinese families split by internal migration, the new Brazilian middle class, cancer victims in London sharing the experience of terminal illness, Trinidadians stalking the latest scandal and much more”.

With Facebook clearly vulnerable to diverse usage, is it possible that will have an effect on stocks?  2014 is the year of widespread mobile usage and that is a scenario that has to play out as well. Think about it, was Facebook’s mobile home app a success? With all of these changing dynamics, Facebook is finally learning something parents knew all along – raising teenagers is hard work.

Image credit: sanja gjenero